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Surviving the Shift

Some of the industries that took off during the stock boom, such as telecommunications and Internet-related service companies, cratered during the bust.

Telecommunications employers have cut 298,400 jobs, or 22.4 percent, since March 2001. Internet publishing and broadcasting, a category that includes Web-based information sites, lost 13,500 jobs, or 26.8 percent. Internet service providers, search portals and data processing employers shaved 111,000 jobs off their payrolls, or 21.6 percent.

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Wall Street firms, which had beefed up as they financed the boom, trimmed 86,200 workers, or 10.2 percent, from the peak in March 2001 to the low point in August 2003. But they have been hiring more recently, reducing the jobs deficit to 5 percent.

A Silver Lining

Some of the short-term developments had positive results. The Federal Reserve reacted to the downturn by dramatically lowering interest rates, which fueled a housing boom. Nearly half a million jobs were added in industries related to building, selling, furnishing and landscaping homes.

Meanwhile, manufacturing jobs started growing again last year, rising by 76,000. But employers say the new manufacturing jobs require workers with more skills than those who used to perform repetitive tasks on the old textile and power-tool assembly lines. Those jobs are gone forever.

SFA, for example, employs highly skilled carpenters, welders, plumbers and electricians in its Easton plant, including workers who can work in teams and shift easily between product lines, said Jon West, the plant's human resource manager and himself a former Black & Decker employee. "A lot of the Black & Decker folks didn't have those skills."

Blanchfield figures she got hired at first because SFA was "really looking for forklift drivers," but she was able to move up quickly because she had gained some computer training, inventory management experience and "people skills" during her years with Black & Decker.

She took a pay cut when she changed jobs but draws a Black & Decker pension that compensates a bit, she said, adding that SFA's benefits are better and "the people here are wonderful." More important, said the Easton High School graduate, whose children and grandchildren live nearby, "I wasn't ready to move. I'm a homebody."

Blanchfield added, "I've been very lucky."


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